How do Costa Rican officials justify ignoring the Hague Convention on Child Abduction?
Time after time runaway moms from the United States come here with a child and try to get the courts here to block U.S. arrest warrants and judicial orders to return the child.
The latest case is that of Trina Atwell and her 2-plus-year-old daughter Emily. Ms. Atwell is wanted for child abduction, and a court in Green County, Missouri, has awarded the biological father full custody. She claims she fled violence and drug abuse. He denies that.
A.M. Costa Rica is in no position to determine who is telling the truth. But neither are Costa Rican officials. The international treaty says that jurisdiction rests with the Green County judge. There the evidence exists to adjudicate the case and confirm or award custody. A complicating factor is that Ms. Atwell was married to a Costa Rican when she had the child.
One would think that Ms. Atwell would want to go back there and reopen the case, at least to be with the other daughter she left behind. One would think that Costa Rican judicial officials would want to take immediate and decisive action to comply with the Hague Convention if only to avoid another long court case in an overwhelmed judicial system.
Ms. Atwell is seeking refugee status for herself and her child.
Of course, this is a strategic play because no right-minded individual would compare the lumbering, flawed judicial system here to the one in the United States.
But we also wonder if she does not have legal custody how can she apply for refugee status on behalf of her daughter?
Of course, in Costa Rica mothers are sacred. Whenever there is an international custody dispute, women gather at the judicial complex to support uncritically the mother of the hour.
Some supporters of Roy Koyama, Emily’s father, have suggested that the United States freeze international aid from Costa Rica. A.M. Costa Rica will not go that far, but the lack of response and action by the U.S. Embassy make one wonder.